Tuesday, February 28, 2017

BRAMBLES: Climate Changes, Values Found

Under a bright sun the thermostat displayed around 70 degrees that cloudless afternoon.  To take advantage, I gathered lunch for the deck, a lean seared steak salad with kale, peppers, and tomato, and presented it to a personable glass of 2009 Ribera del Duoro from a reliable Old World producer.  As the ruby jewel shimmered in the sunlight, I thought things were just about perfect at that satisfying moment.  It was the end of January, and I was not in the Southern Hemisphere, but in the North Bay's wine country!  In the days that followed temperatures again dropped and the skies clouded. And then it poured; contributing to one of the wettest January's here in recent recordings.

That wet pattern continued thru February, taking the region fully into the season of power outages, flooded roads and mud slides.  Even as measured rainfall is currently better than twice seasonal average here, throughout the state our generous snow pack may finally be signaling the end of the current cycle of recent years of statewide drought.  Importantly, a lesson for our agriculture will have been the cumulative benefit here: agrarian efficiencies to produce more with less water. Residential users too have now had years to practice conservation, training the habits of our once water wasters. During a few brief, but sunny breaks, vineyard workers were able to prune vines to direct seasonal growth, and recently a sea of wild mustard has advanced on many beautifully neat vineyards throughout this muddy region, offering the returning promise of spring.
A dry/off-dry Riesling pairs nicely with Asian dishes
Even on these dark winter nights, we can escape to a favorite restaurant in search of a wine value.  Restaurant(on premise) ringers can usually be found in the middle of the wine list.  Here are, not the cheapest, nor the most expensive wines;  often listed as an 'alternative' or as 'interesting' selections.  Many times they are varieties or blends that are under the radar, from regions that don't have the marketing clout or prestige of, say, Bordeaux or Chianti Classico.  Selections from food pairing varietals like Albarino, Arneis, or Chenin Blanc rarely disappoint.  So too, red Rhone blends, Monastrell(Mourvedre) and Garnacha(Grenache) from Spain's Alicante or Jumilla regions(DO) can offer an expressive marriage with regionally inspired foods without breaking our bank.  Additionally, a wine-by-the-glass can offer diners an inexpensive way to test ride one of these hidden gems. Or, ask for a taste. After all, restaurants should be in the business of introducing you to their food-friendly wines which were orchestrated(in theory) to support their menu.

You may not even have to leave your easy chair to find a current wine value.  On line, flash marketing sites are a growing and increasingly competitive commodity. Some flash models will typically just move the featured sales paperwork that allows an individual brand to ship direct to consumer(where shipping is allowed).  Others will pop a notice on your phone or e-mail and then ship from their own warehouse inventory to control the efficiency of selection and process.  These numerous sites offer discounted wines that move from a secondary market, like a wine outlet virtual store, where some discounts can exceed 50%!  Shopping around to find the best daily value and service is recommended, as site inventory, vintages, shipping costs and discounts can change quickly.

At our local retail shops(off premise), knowing that the middle tiers are the volume shelves fought after by large corporate wine distributors and their big, volume brands, values can be found if look at the top and bottom shelf selections.  Smaller shops seek customer relationships, and often assist consumers in searching out values with knowledgeable staff from their recommended though limited selections.  But, that can be a good thing. The more often we visit these valuable merchants the greater opportunity to access their individual and unique wine world palates.  Even brick 'n mortar wineries can offer values to the visitor with annual end of vintage sales and event discounts.  Plus, it is a good way to identify if the character of the wineries stylings excite our unique tastes.

Today, after a few days of returning sunshine we're beginning to dry out, as the invitingly bright outdoors warm up.  It is going to be a great day to visit a local wine shop, or perhaps enjoy a patio lunch to search out the ever changing sea of wine values.  Even as our seasonal climate continues to change here, the wine values found remain a deliciously adventurous constant.
Cheers and Salute!

Tasting Values:
Cantele; Salice Salentino DOC Reserva 2013 - blackberries and spice feels rich in the mouth.

Bon Temps Roulet!

Wine Links:

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